Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Some snippets of news

1. With thanks to Keith - please note that the US magazine New Love Stories have changed their word-count requirements. Please send stories of between 2700 and 3800 words now. Payment still $300. I've heard of several people who've sold stories to this magazine since I posted its guidelines here, so it sounds like a good market.

2. With thanks to Tom - if you have a budding young writer in the family here's another fab competition for them, supported by Michael Morpurgo, no less. Check out the details at Wicked Young Writers.

3. With thanks to Geri - note that Woman's Weekly are soon to end their Book Club slot, and as a result will require 4-part serials as well as the usual 3-parters. So if you are a serial writer, make 'em longer!

Thank you all, please continue to send me anything you think should be posted on this blog.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. August Fiction Feast contains what will probably be my last womag publication for some time. I'm making the most of it, and when the payment comes, will probably blow it all on something totally frivolous!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Character Building by Gina Rossi

Many thanks to all who've offered snippets of news and articles for this blog - I'm really chuffed at the response!

And I'm proud to present, the first donated article on building characters by romance writer Gina Rossi. Thanks Gina!


How do we create strong characters for our stories? Occasionally they spring onto the page fully formed (praise be!) but mostly, they are wrung from the blood, sweat and tears of sheer effort.

Here are some tricks that work for me:

First decide what the character looks like:
Let’s say you’re writing romance and you’ve made your hero the failsafe, tall, dark, handsome specimen. Now scrutinize him and familiarize yourself with his physical appearance. Exactly how tall is he? Why do you call him ‘dark’? Dark eyes, dark skin, dark hair? Work from top to toe. Of course he’s got good teeth, but is one of them slightly crooked? How hairy is he? Does he have muscly arms and nice feet?

Find a description of a hero you like. Rewrite it in your own words. Use different adjectives and verbs. Try using opposites and see how your hero comes out.

Know what he looks like. Write it all down in a large notebook.

Getting to know him:
Now, what is he actually like? Start by asking him questions about his appearance. How did you get that scar? Why haven’t you shaved? You have a small tattoo of a what on your left thigh? Who gave you that watch? Are you limping? Are you left handed? Ask ‘Why?’ too. Keep on asking until you run out of things to say. (Remember this is not a real man, so he won’t wander off and turn on the footie.)

What do his hands tell you? His eyes? His mouth? Can you see if he is confident? Brave? Or vulnerable? Holding something back? Does he look you in the eye?

Ask why. Make him answer. Write.

Make small talk with him, make big talk. Ask him what his biggest regret is and tell him yours. See how he reacts. (If he asks for your number and doesn’t call, kill him off and write his eulogy)

And, at the back of your mind, remember he needs a name.

Go out and find him:
Go people-watching to judge books by their covers. Sit somewhere with a cup of coffee (and your notebook) and see whether you can spot someone who looks and dresses like your hero.

Is he young and conservative, or older with a laid back attitude to clothes? Or does his entire wardrobe come from the surf shop? If a perfect example of your hero doesn’t present, patch his look together from what you see around you.

Order another cup of coffee and spare a thought for your other characters too. Look at people passing by. Write down the first impression you get when you look at their clothes.

What about that young woman in the vintage Chanel suit? Flick her into opposite mode and ask why she could be found in black motorbike leathers after dark? After hours courier? Midnight biker? Er...kinky? Don’t forget to write it all down.

Pin him down:
While you’re out, buy a food magazine, a fashion magazine and a car magazine (or any magazines, though ‘Dental Appliances Monthly’ won’t get you far on this one!)

Find a picture of your hero, his dog, his car, his friends, his favourite restaurant, his clothes, his ex fiancée, the stunning diamond ring he bought his ex fiancée that she threw back at him. Find a picture of the exact spot where he threw that same ring into the sea. (*Sigh* I know!)

Cut these pictures out and stick them into your notebook. Don’t spend hours leafing through magazines in search of the perfect man. Limit yourself. Make yourself find him, even if he’s a patchwork.

Make notes. Keep going.

Know how to know him:
What makes you feel you know someone well? Have you known them since childhood? Shared secrets? Worked together under stress? Imagine your hero is that someone and write down all the points that make you feel you know him really well.

And likewise, what’s missing when you don’t know someone well? Think about it and make sure your hero doesn’t have any holes.

Remember you are not concerned, here, with the hero’s relationship with eg. the heroine. This is about the hero’s relationship with you, and vice versa.

Breathe real life into your hero:
Use a character questionnaire: Kate Walker’s Characterisation Worksheet in her book 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance is a fantastic way to start. Add your own bits.

Has your hero got phobias? A nervous habit? Fill it in. (If you unearth a fabulous nervous tic that can’t possibly be used by your hero, keep it for someone else. Let nothing go to waste).

When you’ve done as much as you can, apply the exercise to someone you know well. You’ll be surprised to discover that there are some things you don’t know about people you know well. Health warning: this can lead to marital spats. Try it using other people you know and mix up their traits. But use caution. Giving Great Aunt Mildred’s 9 am sherry habit to your 8 year old nephew could lead to trouble.

Filter out elements of these exercises that suit your hero and jot them down.

And don’t forget to hide your notebook when you leave the room!

So. Finished? Now do the same for your heroine, and all your main characters.

Most of what you’ve written in that large notebook will never appear in your story, but at least you – and your readers – will know exactly, precisely, intimately, who you are writing about.

Ooh, I like the idea of getting intimate with your tall, dark, handsome hero! Brilliant article, Gina. Keep them coming, folks!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Over to you

I have a confession to make. I can't really call myself 'womagwriter' any more, as I'm not writing womag stories at the moment. I have another writing project on the go, which has me all fired up and is taking all my time.

So, because I'm not writing womag, I'm also not researching the womag markets, and am falling out of touch with what's going on. I don't want this blog to fall dormant, but it is in danger of doing so if left up to me.

I had a thought. What about opening it up a bit? Would all you lovely blog readers out there consider helping me out and keeping the womagwriter blog lively and up to date? You could help in two ways:

1. Email me via the link on this blog, with any snippets of news or gossip relating to the world of womag writing.

2. Send me articles of any length on any aspect of writing, as long as it's loosely connected with writing womag fiction. Obviously there's no pay, but this blog has a wide readership and if you've got something to say, this could be a good place to say it.

I'll continue posting everything, and of course will credit everyone who sends me anything. I'd like to aim for a couple of posts a week, to keep people coming back regularly.

What do you think? If there are no takers, the blog will fall dormant, though I will still post up womag news or changes to guidelines, as and when I hear them.

So, over to you....

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The World Cup

I shall make one comment, and one comment only, on the World Cup.

That comment is here.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

More on the Pocket Novel

More excellent advice here from Sally Quilford on writing pocket novels. Note that although payment for these is not large, you can often sell the novel a second time to large print publishers, and should make a reasonable amount on lending rights over the next few years. So if you like writing longer, do give pocket novels a go.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Non fiction

I sometimes get asked for advice on writing non-fiction, either for the women's magazines or for a wider market. It's not my area of expertise - I have written and sold a few non-fiction articles but it's not really my thing.

Having said that, I can point those who are interested at a few blogs and magazines which are packed with good advice for non-fiction writers.

Firstly - I'd recommend subscribing to at least one of the major writing magazines. If you subscribe to Writing Magazine you will also get Writers' News each month. WM is full of useful articles for beginner and intermediate writers, and WN is full of market opportunities, so between them they cover the bases.
Writers' Forum is an excellent magazine and my current favourite, but is possibly geared a little bit more towards fiction, though they run a good feature on writing for a different market each month.
Then there's Freelance Market News, published by the Writers' Bureau, but anyone can subscribe even if you are not a WB student. As WB specialises in getting new writers published, this magazine should be spot on for the wannabe non-fiction writer (it's not one I've ever bought so I can't comment on it at first hand).
Treat yourself to a copy of either The Writers' Handbook or The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook
. These not only contain listings of magazines and newspapers, their submission requirements and addresses, but also several useful articles on different aspects of writing. They're definitely worth the money.

Blogs - take a look at Julie P's Articles Antics, Alex Gazzola's Mistakes Writers Make, and Simon Whaley's Simon Says, all of which contain lots of hints and tips for non-fiction writers.
Alex's blog includes a long post on finding markets, here.

Finally, as with all writing, study your market well before submitting. Actually, when it comes to non-fiction, you should study your market before you even write the article. Then make your pitch, and write the article when you've been commissioned.

So that'll give you a good start. If anyone has more advice or knows of other blogs worth looking at, please let me know in the comments below this post.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Calling Beautiful Writers

Prima are after anti-aging tips, and favourite beauty products or treatments (name of product, why you like it and how long you've been using it), for forthcoming issues. Email . Keep your entry to around 30 words, and remember to include your name and address as they pay £25 for each one they use.

(Anti-aging tip - follow your sons on bikes up and down Dorset hills. Best beauty product - the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. We had a great holiday!)